Posts Tagged With: poverty

Our Journey To Solve Global Problems

Teach-Girls-End-World-PovertyWe are on a journey to see that problems in our world which technically need not exist be eliminated through understanding and implementing solutions.

It is within my reason that there is no technical reason why people on earth lack life’s vital needs such as clean water, healthy food, safe shelter, and access to tools enabling communication and education (e.g. relationships).

We as human beings have engineered incredible technological achievements that could easily provide a high quality of life for all people. Because we have the capability, but have not yet chosen to utilize technology for the betterment and liberation of those who are imprisoned by the devices of poverty, my conclusion can only be that the true solutions to our world’s problems dwell within the thinking and heart of each individual, community, country, and species of humanity.

A change in our thinking and what we view to be important is the first step in seeing generosity spread, first from the individual, then to the community, and then through the world. When a community knows generosity they know no poverty because the resources available are freely shared with each other, not for profit or power over each other, but from a realization that the welfare of another is also the welfare of our-self. If I am well fed while another is starving, while the resources are available for both of us to be well fed, this screams to the attention that something must be done, something must change.

When I first began to become aware of the problems of starvation, disease, lack of clean water, and the countless deaths of children happening around the world due to poverty, I found myself questioning how one could possibly make a difference in regards to the problems which have existed for as long as any of us can remember. What confounded my logic all the more was to learn that the problems didn’t need to actually exist. I first thought that surely these problems are just the way things are and there is no changing the way things are. I took a deep journey of introspection to discover the core of these problems in hopes of also discovering a way to solve the problem within us that perpetuates “the way things are.”

I first traveled across the United States to meet the homeless. I grew up in a lower-middle class home which by no means was wealthy by American standards, but I had also never experienced what it was truly like not to have a roof over my head at night, food in my belly, and the many other comforts which life for most in America avails. So, I wanted to go to cities through America to met the homeless, those often overlooked by the majority of society, to understand how they had arrived to the circumstantial place in life they had.

I went with the intent of providing meals for those who were hungry, and although food was appreciated, I discovered that the true thing the homeless desired was simply my time, recognition of their humanity, and someone who would listen. This was my first clue into what can make a difference – relationship to one another.

We live in a world with unsurpassed tools of communication and connecting with one another. But on the other hand, this enhancement of ability to connect with one another, I think, has lead to us growing more disconnected in ways that can be difficult to measure with algorithms and metrics. How can we measure the level of connection with one another? That, to me, is something quite intangible which cannot  be so easily defined with numbers and letters. A deep connection of relationship to one another is something that can be expressed simply in the look two people exchange with one another, the touch of a hug or pat on the back, and the time spent simply listening to another tell their story. Listening is a two-way activity and is starkly different than reading someone’s story through a news article, facebook feed, or blog post.

When the human connection is made we begin to feel that another’s well being is important to us, and the spirit of generosity begins to be given room to grow.

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The Child Who Will Die If We Do Not Act

We are all familiar with the images spread by non-profit organizations of starving children with flies covering their bodies as they rot in the streets of impoverished villages around the world. This post isn’t going to be one of those advertisements. This post is not meant to guilt trip anyone into doing anything, but to inspire us with the notion that we can make a difference in someone’s life now.

In 2006 I had a dream. In that dream I was walking the streets of one of those impoverished villages of which advertising has made us familiar. I came upon a small child, sitting in the street, and instantly knew that his life would end tomorrow because he didn’t have clean and safe water. I also had the revelation in the dream that I could give my life for him to have another day, and I did.

From that moment I was changed. I now had a mission in life: to do anything I could to see that the child in my dream, as unknown as he was to me personally, would have a chance at living. And each of us has that opportunity right now.

Clean water is the most fundamental element of life. It is technically illogical that nearly 1 billion people on earth lack access to that vital resource. We have the ability, engineering capacity, and finances to make it happen – clean water for the world. But it has to be a priority. Providing clean water must be seen as highly relevant not only to those who are in need of safe water, but relevant to those of us who simply walk into our kitchen or step into our shower to quench our thirst and clean ourselves.

A water well, costing as little as $5,000 can provide clean water to 250 – 500 people for 10 – 20 years. This means that merely $1 can potentially give clean water to that child who was dying in my dream for an entire year.  Clean water not only impacts lives with quenching thirst and sanitation, but impacts nearly all other aspects of the health of the individual and community. Water enables agriculture and the growing of food. But more importantly than simply the physical benefits of clean water, it provides hope, and when a community has hope, everything changes.

Will you join with me in committing to eliminate the lack of access to clean water around the world? Please connect with me to discuss projects you may know about working to provide clean water, let me know about organizations I should support through my long-distance walking, or make a donation to fund the projects I support. Your donation, even if just $1 will have a huge impact on the life of someone in need.

Thank you for your time,

Dylan

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Intentional Experience

Homeless people on the streetsIt’s difficult to understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. When we experience how life is lived by others our own perspective and understanding increases.

In 2009 I went for a drive. I had no idea where I would go, but I was headed east in my 1987 Buick Skylark that would shut down if I pressed the accelerate too hard or too quickly. I had lived a semi-luxurious lifestyle in my young adult life; earning a good salary, living in nice homes, and enjoying nice dinners. But I had this urge to meet and spend time with people living on the streets, to hear the stories of people all too often neglected by our society.

I didn’t have a motive of some type of “humanitarian relief” agenda, I simply wanted to gain experience of how life is lived in a way that I had yet to experience. Furthermore, I didn’t have much by way of personal funds to give monetarily. I traveled through Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee, stopping in cities along the way to simply go find people to talk to. What I discovered change my own perspective on why people are homeless, and what they truly need.

I had always thought that really helping the poor meant giving them food or a shelter for the night, but I quickly realized that all people living within the circumstances of sleeping on the streets wanted was someone to listen, recognize them, and see them as an equally valuable human being. Food and shelter certainly didn’t hurt, but I learned that the physical aspects of giving aid must come from a personal connection or relationship with people who need help in obtaining access to life’s most vital needs.

I think that far too much of humanitarian aid is given by organizations and philanthropists who see what they are doing more as a job they do for a good purpose or cause, without truly understanding those we mean to help. But in order to truly help someone we must understand them, know them, and see things from their perspective. It is often the case that to see things from another’s perspective, we have to live as they live and experience what they experience.

In 2005 I remember coming to the conclusion that one of my primary goals in this life was simply to understand. I wanted to understand as many perspectives of people as possible, in order to gain a deeper understanding of life and why our human world is the way that it is. At the age of 19, the problems of poverty confounded my mind. I couldn’t understand why so much of the planet was subjected to such living conditions, while we have so many resources available. I couldn’t understand why churches squabbled over theological differences, while the poor were suffering on their doorsteps. I couldn’t understand why some had so much more than they could ever use or enjoy, while so many lacked the very resources needed to live at all.

I knew there must be a solution.

The solution to the problems we face as a planet begin in a place undefinable with human language; although, I will do my best to illustrate my thoughts using these symbolic representations we call letters and words.

Love, I believe is something much more than the four letters comprising it could ever could truly encapsulate or evoke. Love is a force which binds together all of humanity; initiating compassion, generosity, and liberation within each of our hearts. A community that fully knows generosity does not know poverty.

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What Causes Poverty?

ImageExtreme poverty is an issue which, to some, appears to be immensely complicated. The philanthropic world examines a plethora of issues relating to poverty in hopes of discovering solutions to meet the needs of people dying daily from causes that we have the full capabilities and resources to eliminate. Many campaign for a wide-ranging approach to attack the problems of poverty with private investment, responsible political leadership, and large-scale aid to alleviate current suffering.
However, as I read through the vast number of articles published by non-profit organizations, watch interviews with world leaders, and hearpromising statistics on how poverty is being eradicated, I cannot help but see a grossly overlooked topic which although spoken about, never seems to truly be addressed: Inequality.
Extreme poverty, in my view, is an incredibly simple issue with a simple explanation. Money is a fixed tool of measurement. This means that there are only so many dollars, pounds, etc. that exist. For example, let us say that there are $7,000,000,000 in total existence – roughly the number of people on earth. Now let us suppose that of those 7 billion dollars, 39% our owned by the top 1% of people. When such a large portion of the pie is being eaten by such a few number of people, it’s simple to see why poverty is so rampant around planet earth.
How We Define “Poverty”
When searching for the root cause of poverty in our world, I believe it is of utmost importance to define exactly what we mean by poverty. Many organizations define poverty strictly in monetary terms. We hear statistics such as “half of the world lives on less than $2 per day” but does that statistic truly reflect the conditions of life for half of the world’s population? For example, a farmer may live on less than $2 per day, while providing the essentials of water and food from working their land. If an outside entity were to view this farmer based solely on his income, he may be viewed as impoverished and encouraged to move into the city where he might earn a higher wage through some sort of factory work.
I think that an accurate definition of poverty would have to be linked also to how we define “quality of life.” For the purposes of this article, I will discuss “quality of life” in terms of the physical needs we human beings have. Certainly, there are many other spiritual and social factors which come into play when discussing the quality of one’s life, but perhaps that will be for a future article.
What do we think it means to truly live a quality life? In my view there are few and simple true needs that we as human beings have to live healthy: clean water, healthy food, safe shelter, education and communication (relationships). A community which lacks access to these vital needs experiences needless suffering, as we have all of the resources and technical capabilities to provide them for all of humanity. There are some who believe the earth simply does not have the resources to support the number of people on earth and that poverty is a natural result of an overpopulated planet. But I believe this to be a highly short-sighted viewpoint.
The world is not overpopulated, as though our planet has a capacity limit, but the resources we have available are incredibly mismanaged  by we humans. Admitting this is perhaps a first step in understanding the root cause of poverty. The planet is not at fault for poverty, just as the people themselves are not responsible for poverty; rather, the systems in which we the people place our beliefs are not working and have not worked throughout our history to achieve a quality life for each person.

 What can give people access to the vital needs of life?

Clean water is the most fundamental element of life. It is also the prime force for agricultural growth and health. We have the technology and resources to easily provide clean water for the world. There is one reason always given for why we do not make clean water for all a reality – cost.Nearly half of the world’s population lives within 200 km of a coastline.Desalination is a simple but costly process which converts seawater into drinkable water through reverse osmosis. If we can overcome the monetary restriction within our minds, we can finally harness the most vast source of water our planet – the oceans.
The question we must ask ourselves in regards to providing a quality life for each one of us is “what is our concern?” If our primary concern is money and cost, poverty will continually be perpetuated around the world. But if we determine to concern our selves not by what it may cost in terms of a digital bank account number; rather, by what it may cost in human lives if we do not implement the technology and resources we have to create a better world for each one of us.
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